Addressing Arctic Warming and Melting
At present, discussions of steps to slow this warming largely have focused on reducing CO2 emissions. While the impact of CO2 on Arctic sea ice is significant, controlling CO2 will be insufficient in the near term. Once emitted into the atmosphere, CO2 can remain for centuries. Even if all CO2 emissions ceased today, the impact of this action would not occur quickly enough to slow the processes driving the unexpectedly rapid warming and melting that now are occurring in the Arctic.
CO2 is not the only contributor to Arctic warming, however. Scientists estimate that several other pollutants (notably black carbon, tropospheric ozone, and methane) collectively have had roughly the same temperature impact on the Arctic as CO2. Because of the short lifetimes of these pollutants (days, months or a decade, respectively) when compared to that of CO2 (centuries to millennia), there would be a much swifter climate response to reductions. This could delay the onset of the Arctic spring melt and constrain the length and extent of the melt season. Reducing these emissions could therefore “buy time” until benefits of CO2 reductions could take effect. The stark reality: curbing short-lived climate forcing agents is likely the best, and perhaps only viable, strategy for slowing Arctic warming in time.
Scientists believe that reductions in several short-term pollutants (notably black carbon, tropospheric ozone, and methane), which collectively have had roughly the same temperature impact on the Arctic as CO2, could provide a key to shaping an effective immediate response that can slow Arctic warming. In response, the Climate Policy Center of Clean Air-Cool Planet and the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) are engaging in a three-year coordinated effort to draw world attention to the contribution of these pollutants to warming in the Arctic.
Read more about our program here.
Download our Fact Sheet, "Short Lived Pollutants and Arctic Warming."